House Dem: Rejecting TPP would be ‘geopolitical malpractice’

A pro-trade House Democrat said Friday that failing to pass a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade agreement would amount to “geopolitical malpractice” if the deal is as strong as advertised by President Obama.

Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who was one of 28 Democrats to support Obama’s bid for trade promotion authority, said if the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) lives up to the White House’s pitch, then Congress must pass it.

{mosads}Connolly said the 28 Democrats who support trade promotion authority (TPA), or fast-track, which will streamline the deal through Congress, “are pretty solid” in their support.

He argued that voting for TPA makes those Democrats “likely favorably disposed to TPP at the end of the day.”

But whether the president and his administration’s full-court press picks up more Democratic votes remains an open question.

“The opposition, especially by labor, is pretty formidable,” Connolly said on a conference call with reporters.

There is some expectation though that House Democratic votes will grow beyond the 28 for TPA and will probably eclipse the 31 votes for the Colombia trade deal, which faced major opposition from the liberals when it passed Congress in 2011, a House aide told The Hill. 

The House vote is already tight and any defections from supportive lawmakers on either side of the aisle could imperil the TPP’s chances to pass through Congress. 

So those extra Democratic votes will be needed if typically pro-trade Republicans line up against the TPP deal.

“I’m concerned about the erosion of support on the Republican side of the aisle, we’ve seen people peel off because of this provision or that — dairy, tobacco, pharmaceuticals,” Connolly said.

“So I think the administration obviously has its work cut out for it in trying to win those people back by patiently going through the provisions in this very long document and hopefully allaying the concerns that have been raised,” he said. 

Fast-track passed Congress this summer and gives the House and Senate up-or-down votes on the massive agreement with no chance of amending or filibustering the pact.

On Friday, Connolly joined Small Business Administration Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet in touting the benefits of the TPP’s small-business chapter during the release of a report by the Progressive Policy Institute

The report shows that small- and medium-sized businesses will benefit from the TPP’s provisions. 

“The TPP’s groundbreaking provisions on small business and e-commerce — along with thousands of cuts in foreign tariffs and key reductions in non-tariff barriers — would enable more of America’s smaller exporters to compete and win in growing markets around the Pacific Rim,” according to the report authored by Ed Gerwin, PPP’s senior fellow for trade. 

“And, because small firms that export are economic powerhouses, these exports would boost America’s economy and support greater opportunity — and more and better-paying jobs — for a wider group of Americans.” 

Tags Fast track Gerry Connolly Trans-Pacific Partnership

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